Blog Posts by Steve Mertl

  • Mother Canada war memorial controversy stretches from Ottawa to Cape Breton

    A well-intentioned effort to honour Canadian war dead buried overseas with a memorial in their homeland has become mired in controversy. But despite the Conservative government’s backing, it’s unlikely to affect the party’s prospects this fall.

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s near decade in power has featured a marked increase in the military’s profile, especially its historical contributions, even if government’s dealing with veterans have sometimes raised doubts about his sincerity.

    It’s not surprising the Conservatives got behind a plan by Toronto businessman Tony Trigiani to erect a massive new memorial to Canada’s fallen on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast, a kind of bookend to the much beloved Vimy Memorial in France.

    In fact, the giant statue, dubbed Mother Canada by Trigiani’s Never Forgotten National Memorial Foundation, would even be in direct line of site with Vimy.

    “It symbolizes the welcoming home of over 114,000 souls that are buried in 2,500-plus cemeteries around the world

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  • Getting used to coyotes as neighbours, but don’t make friends with them

    <h1 class=title style=box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px 0px 0.3913em; padding: 0px; border: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; zoom: 1; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial; data-asset-id=122397812 data-popup=data-popup><span style=color: #1a191b; font-family: 'ITC Avant Garde', Arial, sans-serif;><span style=font-size: 20.0000400543213px; font-weight: normal; line-height: 20.0000400543213px;>Coyote standing in the green grass</span></span></h1>

    Canadian city-dwellers are used to living with wildlife, from squirrels, deer, raccoons and even the occasional bear in some Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods.

    Squirrels are cute, and so are raccoons when they’re not emptying your garbage bin all over the yard. But some of us are ambivalent about another animal that’s come to enjoy living in the city: the coyote.

    Reports of coyote sightings and encounters have climbed steadily in Canada, including incidents where they’ve preyed on cats and small dogs, and claims they’ve attacked people.

    In early June, a coyote reportedly jumped into a fenced yard in London, Ont., and killed a wheaten terrier that had been let outside for its evening constitutional.

    In May, a coyote was blamed for knocking down and mauling a teenage girl as she walked in London park, though some say a dog is the more likely culprit.

    Conservation officers in Vancouver killed an aggressive coyote after it was reported stalking a woman and her leased dogs in the downtown

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  • What does the face of radical jihadism look like? No 'magic profile' exists, experts say

    A Lebanese Sunni Muslim fighter with the 'Jihad to Liberate Syria' group rests at a home 12 kilometers from the Syrian border, on November 13, 2012 in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)A Lebanese Sunni Muslim fighter with the 'Jihad to Liberate Syria' group rests at a home 12 kilometers from the Syrian border, on November 13, 2012 in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

    With the so-called war on terror well into its second decade, are we any closer to decoding the allure of radicalism to some young people and finding ways to disrupt it?

    The brief arrest of 10 young Quebecers who went to the same junior college and the seizure of their passports as they tried to leave the country a couple of weeks ago underscores the scope of the problem. It also demonstrates some success in identifying potential foreign fighters. The fact a parent alerted the RCMP suggests perhaps authorities are getting better at eliciting help from Muslim communities.

    However, those who study radicalism and violent extremism are still debating what weight to give the basic motivating elements, facets that can help distinguish potential terrorists and expat jihadis from people just blowing off steam.

    And government apparently still hasn’t developed solid strategies to divert them from radicalism, though piecemeal programs exist.

    Building an exact profile of a potential jihadi has

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  • B.C. island may be on sale for just $380,000, but the reality of living there isn’t idyllic

    Round Island, British Columbia. (Courtesy of BCOceanfront.com)Round Island, British Columbia. (Courtesy of BCOceanfront.com)

    Soaring real estate prices are an obsession for people living in Vancouver.

    Mortgaged homeowners worry how they’ll make their payments if interest rates go up. Younger people wonder how they’ll ever scrap up the down payment for even a shoebox-sized condo in one of the city’s many glass towers, never mind an average modest family home that gives not much change from a million dollars.

    So the idea of buying an entire island off the B.C. coast for the price of condo or even less within an easy boat trip to Vancouver or Victoria might be very enticing.

    It sounds romantic. Leave the hustle of the big city behind and telecommute, working to the sound of waves lapping on your private beach while you contemplate the maritime vista from your home overlooking the shore.

    A CTV News report this week noted three-hectare Round Island, off the east coast of Vancouver Island, is on the market for just $380,000 or the undeveloped property.

    But before you go see your bank manager, it’s worth

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  • Would France’s anti-food waste law work for Canada?

    A volunteer at the Food Bank transfers food donated by a supermarket to charity in France. (Reuters)A volunteer at the Food Bank transfers food donated by a supermarket to charity in France. (Reuters)

    Wasted food is a tremendous global problem. Depending on how you define waste, anywhere from 30 per cent to – in developed countries – upwards of half the food grown for human consumption ends up being thrown away.

    Almost everyone involved, from farmers to consumers, bear a share of the blame but France is taking a radical step to address it by targeting its supermarkets. A new law will make it illegal for large grocers to dispose of food that’s still edible into the garbage stream.

    The law, approved last week by the National Assembly, requires store operators to donate unsold still-edible food, whether packaged or fresh, to charities. To ensure compliance, they’ll be required to make contracts with recipient organizations.

    Food no longer fit for human consumption must be processed into animal feed or compost.

    It took a grassroots campaign by one French politician to bring about the legislation because, as in Canada, this serious issue flies pretty much under the public’s radar.

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  • Vancouver, Toronto building ‘poor doors’ viewed as opportunity, not segregation

    It’s hard to think of anything more likely to inflame Canadians’ sense of fairness than the idea of a residential building where those of modest means have to use an entrance separate from their economic betters.

    So it’s surprising an eruption of the so-called “poor door” controversy didn’t get more traction in Vancouver after word got out a new condominium planned for downtown had just such segregation between those who’d be living in subsidized “non-market” apartments and those paying top dollar for luxury suites.

    The debate flared for a few days after a contributor to the civic watchdog group CityHallWatch tweeted that the project proposed for the prime West End location on Jervis and Davie streets would have separate entrances for condo owners and non-market renters.

    But it soon became evident

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  • Taking a fuel-cell vehicle for a test drive: Quiet, familiar ride, for a price

    On the outside, it looks like a typical CUV... (Courtesy Hyundai)On the outside, it looks like a typical CUV... (Courtesy Hyundai)

    The story of the hydrogen fuel-cell car has a frustrating chicken-and-egg quality.

    The FCEV, short for fuel-cell electric vehicle, has been touted as the future of personal zero-emission motoring for the last 20 years.

    And why not? It takes the most plentiful element on Earth, hydrogen, combines it with air and passes them through chemically-activated membranes in the the fuel-cell stack to produce electricity to power the car. The only byproducts when pure hydrogen is used are water and heat.

    The hype around fuel-cells led many to believe we would all be able to buy an FCEV by now. Technological and cost hurdles proved more formidable than expected and public attention shifted to hybrids and battery-powered EVs, such as the Nissan Leaf and the luxury Tesla.

    But the major automakers have stuck with it. They believe FCEVs will offer the range and flexibility of a conventional automobile, something battery EVs can’t do, even with the fastest recharging setups.

    Players such as Honda,

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  • Auto recalls and lemon cars: It’s still a case of buyer beware in Canada

    There's no lemon law in Canada, meaning dealers don't have to take back dud cars. (Thinkstock)There's no lemon law in Canada, meaning dealers don't have to take back dud cars. (Thinkstock)

    You have to feel for Danielle Champagne, who’s living every car owner’s nightmare.

    The Winnipeg mother paid top dollar for a new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedan but told CBC News it’s been nothing but trouble, apparently subject to 15 manufacturer’s safety recalls and another 15 warranty-related problems.

    Canada has no U.S.-style lemon laws, which give owners the right to demand a refund or replacement vehicle if it’s suffering from chronic mechanical problems. Customers here have to go through an auto industry-sanctioned arbitration process to deal with complaints.

    It’s not clear whether Champagne is involved in that process. She could not be reached and calls by Yahoo Canada News to the service manager at Vickar Community Chevrolet, which sold her the car for $34,000 (current base asking price for a Cruze is about $17,000), were not returned.

    Champagne’s problems highlight the fact Canadian consumers are largely on their own when it comes to dealing with defective vehicles. Even if you

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  • The Ontario sex-ed debate: Catching up with Canada or hidden agenda?

     

    The protest against a new sex-education program in Ontario schools continues with no sign the provincial government is ready to revisit the controversial curriculum.

    Parents opposed to the new curriculum on cultural and religious grounds are staging a boycott, pulling their children out of school and holding rallies. The protest is centred mainly in Metro Toronto, where CBC News reported more than 40,000 kids were absent on Monday.

    Andrew Morrison, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Education, said pockets of absences have been reported in other communities, including London, Windsor and Ottawa, but had no figures.

    Not everyone opposed to the new program is keeping their children out for the whole week.

    “Today we’re not doing protest,” Christine Liu of the recently formed Parents Alliance of Ontario, told Yahoo Canada News on Tuesday. “Among the Chinese community we’re only doing protests for one day in May but we will do protests in September in a bigger scope.

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  • Super high-end car sales on the upswing in Canada

    McLaren 570SMcLaren 570S

    The numbers Chris Green tosses out as he leads a walk-around tour of McLaren’s new 570S sports car would cause any gear head to geek out.

    The orange waist-high, scissor-doored road rocket weighs about the same as a Toyota Corolla, which is unremarkable unless that Corolla is packing the British car’s 562 horsepower turbocharged V-8 engine.

    It’s enough to propel the McLaren to 100 kilometres an hour in a blink over three seconds, says Green, McLaren’s national brand manager. It will reach 200 km/h in 9.5 seconds, about as long as it takes the Corolla to get to 100, and has a top speed of 328 km/h (204 mph).

    Fuel economy, if you must know, is estimated at around 11 litres per 100 km, possibly achieved by putting a raw egg between your right foot and the gas pedal.

    But it’s the car’s price (not official since deliveries won’t start till fall) that will keep the 570S literally a dream machine for all but a few lucky Canadians – roughly $215,000-$230,000. It is, says Green, McLaren’s entry

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